Motorsports Head-to-Head—Snowmobiling or ATVing?

Editor's Note: With the City of Greater Sudbury having recently passed a new by-law allowing ATVs on public roads all-year round, and just as snowmobile season is set to kick off, what better time to explore the relative pros and cons of two of the most fun outdoor activities that we have? Here in Ontario, we're lucky enough to have plenty of trails and destinations for each, which begs the question, to snowmobile, or to ATV?

Snowmobiling or ATVing, That is the Question

As a bit of a motorsports fanatic, I'm fortunate to have so many great routes, trails and places to travel here in Ontario. I've been working in the motorsports industry as a media person for a long time, and have been sledding and riding for more than thirty years. For over a decade, I've had the distinct pleasure of testing all makes and models of snowmobiles and ATVs. Because I've had so many experiences in the world of motorsports, a question that many people have asked me time and again is, which is best? I'd love to give a simple answer, but after having done so much of both snowmobiling and ATVing, I'd really have to say that it comes down to you asking yourself what you really want—what are you going to use this machine for? What sort of experiences are you looking to have, or better, what sort of fun? These are simple but important questions… so, read on, and maybe I can help steer you in the right direction.

The Case for Snowmobiling

(The Case for ATVing)

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With winter just around the corner, now's a good time to talk about snowmobiles. Sleds have come a long way over the years and, if you haven’t ridden a modern snowmobile in the last ten years, well let’s us just say, these buggies have really changed. They are much more reliable now than they were in the past, often offering many creature comforts much like a luxury car. The modern snowmobile steers and handles like never before.

Let’s take a closer look at sledding in Ontario, where recreational riding or touring is commonplace. Ontario is world-renowned as a superlative destination for snowmobiling and for good reasonthere are over 30,000 km of trails in this province that can offer a lifetime of different adventures. These trails are interconnected throughout the province. Once you find the trails, they really are endless and you can travel in any direction, which seems to be infinite. Of course, these trails do require the purchase of a trail permit. Ontario has an incredible user-pay system that is a real bargain for snowmobilers, considering that it allows them to travel on any trail across Ontario for the entire winter sledding season.

Ontario trails are looked after by local snowmobile clubs, which also offer socials events. It's not uncommon to find different club events when out on the trail, considering that this is a family sport that is also very social. There are always families and groups of friends traveling together out on these trails, making memories every time that they venture out.

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Snowmobile day-trips are common enough, but something that really stands out in this sport is what I call destination riding, or, multi-day tours. Our provincial trails are well-groomed on a regular basis, making it possible for sledders to travel from different areas and across various regions seamlessly, continuing on for days and never seeing the same trail twice. This vast interconnected trail system is an incredible resource that we're lucky to have, and it's only for snowmobiles. On a snowmobile, it's not hard to travel over 300 km in a day. With an ATV on the other hand, this is next to impossible. It varies of course, but I'd say that a dedicated snowmobiler can easily average 2000 kilometres travelled in a single season, or in some cases, many more!

Click here to read the Case for ATVing

The Verdict

In the end, it's all about what works for you on any given day. I've laid out a few considerations and things for you to think about, but the decision is really yours.

Regardless of what powersports equipment you decide to buy, if you're a new rider please get informed and be aware of common newbie accidents. There are many common hazards that a first-time rider should be prepared for, whether it’s on a sled or an ATV. Regardless of a rider’s age, if you or a family member wants to start riding, take a rider training course. They will keep you safe, cover the basics and help improve your rider procedures before the bad habits have a chance to set in. And of course, wear all the proper gear, so that you can enjoy the ride and live to ride another day with all your bones intact. Remember to always wear a helmet, even if you're only moving your ride a short distance. Ride and Enjoy! 

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About Bob Island

Bob Island is passionate about off road riding and is a long time off road instructor, an editor, photographer and he works in the powersports media industry.

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